Synod 2022 has revised and strengthened the guidelines for how Christian Reformed church councils handle allegations of abuse against church leaders.
The revised guidelines provide more leeway for local churches to decide how to best handle the abuse response but also provide additional classis oversight from the start of the process, according to Amanda Benckhuysen, director of the CRC’s Safe Church Ministry. Under the new guidelines, classis (the regional group of churches) will appoint church visitors who will participate in the abuse response from the start, providing advice, encouragement, and support.
When a congregation responds ineffectively to an abuse allegation, the matter may be appealed to classis (a regional group of churches) and then even to synod—the broadest assembly of the CRC. Such appeals, Benckhuysen said, are likely to retraumatize the victim by widening the circle of people with knowledge of the incident.
“When someone accused of abuse is close to us, it’s always hard for us to believe, and it’s hard to know how to go forward,” said Benckhuysen. “These changes give churches a little more space, and they also build in accountability for actually doing something in response to the abuse.”
Church leaders responding to an alleged abuse will be required to watch a 60-minute Safe Church training and orientation video. And when a case does come before synod, more of the work will be handled privately by advisory committee members who receive the video training, rather than on the floor of synod.
The review of the process was initiated by the CRC's Council of Delegates in response to a formal request (overture) to Synod 2021. Synod 2022 accepted the work that has been done.
Synod 2022 is meeting at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 10-16. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at thebanner.org/synod, download the Banner app on your mobile device, or follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook. On Twitter follow #crcsynod or twitter.com/crcna. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church (it did not gather in 2020 or 2021). Connect to the meeting’s livestream, read advisory committee reports, and find other resources at crcna.org/synod.